Why Have NC Community Gardens Grown Popular During the Pandemic?

Why Have NC Community Gardens Grown Popular During the Pandemic?

What is a community garden and why is it so popular everywhere now, especially in NC? There are currently over 250 registered NC community gardens. To be fair, community gardens have been around for a long time. However, it’s undeniable that they have gained in popularity since the beginning of the pandemic. Why is this and should you join one or start your own?

There’s nothing quite as rewarding as growing your own vegetables and flowers in your own home garden, but many city dwellers don’t have the space or resources to do this. So what is a community garden? They are generally shared plots of land where people gather together to grow vegetables, flowers, etc. All over America, cities are turning ugly, empty spaces into green and thriving community gardens.

community gardening cabbage
Image courtesy of Arnaldo Aldana on Unsplash.

Benefits to Community Gardening

At the beginning of the pandemic, and even now, people became concerned about their own food security. The thought of food insecurity is a major motivating factor in people turning to community gardening, but it has a multitude of other benefits as well:

  • Cost effective – The cost to participate in a community garden is relatively inexpensive or even free. Community gardens provide nutritious produce for families who may not otherwise be able afford it, improving their overall health. Many community gardens also donate excess produce to local food pantries.
  • Cleaner environment – With a community garden you have input on pesticides used. Planting gardens, of course, also add oxygen to the air which removes pollutants in the environment. Most community gardens also participate in composting which recycles plant waste and turns it into fertilizer.
  • Beautifying spaces – Many cities use spaces which may have been abandoned or otherwise considered an eye sore and turn them into lush gardens, which can improve the lives of everyone in the community.
  • Higher quality/fresh foods – Instead of purchasing produce from your grocery store where it likely sat on a truck for a period of time during transit, you can go out to your garden and get fresh picked, and often organic, produce. Nothing compares to the taste of fresh veggies that you have grown!
  • Educational opportunities – This is an excellent opportunity for kids, and even adults, to learn about where food comes from. It’s also a good introduction to environmental issues, lessons about hard work, and even business principles.
  • Building community/connecting with your neighbors – Being a part of a community garden allows you to get out and connect with your neighbors. It also provides a sense of investment, ownership and pride. It’s been shown that it can even help reduce crime in the surrounding neighborhood.

How to plan/start a community garden

Your area may already have a community garden you can join. Most of them charge a minimal annual membership fee. Be sure to check out what may already be happening in your area.

If you want to start your own, however, here are some things you can do:

  • Start by talking to your neighbors – discuss what kind of garden would best serve your needs.
  • Pull together and identify resources – your town may have resources that could help with your project. Reach out to local municipal planners and garden clubs for info on sites.
  • Find a site – this is crucial. Make sure your site gets plenty of sunshine, is relatively flat and has a water source. Start contacting owners about the possibility of leasing or using a space for this purpose.
  • Strategically plan your garden – figure out how what you want to grow, what the layout should be, if you want to start composting, etc. This is the fun part where you can decide what you want it to look like and what needs it should serve for the community.
NC community gardening
Image courtesy of JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash.

Helpful Resources

Be sure to check out these resources on NC community gardens:

North Carolina Community Gardens Partners is an excellent source of information on NC community gardens that are already in existence across the entire state. They also provide knowledge on how to get started and links to other resources. NC State Extension is another great source for all sorts of information on community gardening. Also, Let’s Move, Michelle Obama’s initiative to fight childhood obesity, includes links to sources on community gardens, gardening in general, urban agriculture, and how to find funding.

If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, you can start small in your neighborhood. On a personal note, as a resident of downtown Asheville, many of us face challenges with limited space, light conditions or topography. Our neighborhood banded together this summer and each of us planted gardens where had room, mostly in our front yards, and everyone shared in the bounty of vegetables with each other. We even came together for outdoor cookouts, often making salads or dishes using the delicious veggies we grew. This was a fun way to bring the neighborhood together during quarantine.

Remember that living in NC comes with the benefit of an extended growing season for most of us, so you can still get out there and plant your fall/winter garden and reap the rewards for some time to come. We are lucky to be living in a state that is perfect for creating community gardens.

For more info, check out our other articles on what to plant in the fall in North Carolina and what a cold snap means for your fall garden. Want to know more about homesteading or raising chickens in your city? Head over to our Lifestyle section.